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Thread: What Asian Films Have You Been Watching Recently?

  1. #541
    Somehow I missed 47 Lab's review of Moon Warriors, which could have spared me a great deal of disappointment. How so many talented people could come together and produce something as juvenile and treacly and unoriginal as this is a question future film historians might well debate. As for the USP, every time that big fish swam into the viewfinder, my heart sank.

    Presumably this was originally a handsome spectacle, but the colors in the Universe disc are washed out.

  2. #542
    Quote Originally Posted by mjeon View Post
    Somehow I missed 47 Lab's review of Moon Warriors, which could have spared me a great deal of disappointment. How so many talented people could come together and produce something as juvenile and treacly and unoriginal as this is a question future film historians might well debate. As for the USP, every time that big fish swam into the viewfinder, my heart sank.

    Presumably this was originally a handsome spectacle, but the colors in the Universe disc are washed out.
    I watched the HKL rip of the dvd, so I don't know if it's any better than the Universe HK disc picture wise but at least it's anamorphic but yeah, in any case, this was a shit movie.

    So caught a Japanese/Korean double header earlier with first up being Takumi Saitoh's debut feature, the family drama BLANK 13. We've all seen this set up before about a deadbeat, worthless father (played superbly by Franky Lily) who abandons his wife and two pre-teen boys one night, only to reappear years later with the revelation that he is dying of cancer. Of course, his abandoned family is reluctant to accept him back in their lives and this could've been turned into the typical story of redemption or a tear jerker but Saitoh handles this rather cliched storyline with such nuance and in a particularly Japanese way that is refreshing & way more entertaining than I initially thought. Another positive is this flick gets down to the essence of the story without a lot of unnecessary filler as evidenced by its run time of a little more than an hour.



    Next up was THE FORTRESS directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk. This is a saeguk drama based on the second Manchu (Qing) invasion of Korea in the 17th century. I don't know why but I tend to enjoy Korean historical/period films more than Chinese and Japanese ones? Perhaps, it's because the Korean ones seem grittier but at the same time, even more polished technically and effects wise. This one is a bit short on action for my liking with a lot of the screen time devoted to royal court intrigue and scheming and it's a chore to sit through endless dialog between the two court advisors and the King and the futility of their situation against the better armed and numerically superior Manchu forces but still worth a visit if you're a fan of these type of movies. Having said that, director Hwang Dong-hyuk best work is still THE CRUCIBLE aka SILENCED. I would recommend seeking that one out before watching this one.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  3. #543
    Caught the 2010 indie SK flick, PASSERBY #3 aka RAINBOW directed & completely self financed by Shin Su-won. This was her directorial debut and is based on her own life as a middle aged woman who suddenly gives up her steady career to embark on a new journey as a director, filmmaker, & screenwriter. I've enjoyed some of her later stuff like PLUTO and MADONNA, so was curious how her debut fared. Fairly entertaining from a biographical standpoint & there are some funny and charming moments but it's all over the place - a critique on SK's paint by the numbers movie industry, modern family demands & marriage life, teen bullying, & even the indie rock scene. Some of these topics have been revisited in greater detail in some of her later films but felt she tried to do too much here. Still entertaining and worth a watch for the comedic quirks and strong performance by actress Park Hyun-young as the pusillanimous lead character loosely based on Shin Su-won herself.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  4. #544
    Caught the 1992 HK revenge crime drama, STING OF THE SCORPION directed by Lee Kwok-laap and starring Anthony Wong, who looks ridiculous with a half perm/half mullet hairstyle. Lee Kwok-lap uses revenge driven females as the primary focus of his flicks from that girls with guns era (early 90s) and this time it's Maggie Siu who is assigned that role. It had its moments & good to see Johnny Wang Lung-wei playing his usual baddie self as a corrupt police captain & Eddy Ko as a triad boss but ultimately, it's mediocre in terms of story and action. Watch once and forget.
    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  5. #545
    Re-watched Teddy Yip's THE THUNDER KICK aka SURVIVAL OF THE DRAGON as I recently picked up the German dvd. Saw this years ago and upon a re-watch, it was a pretty good basher with a particularly good final fight with Yukio Someno. Both are real life martial artists and karate technicians & it shows. Larry Lee's career was relatively short lived compared to his contemporaries (he was a bigger star in Indonesia) & he didn't have the leading man looks or charisma but he was a decent & underrated onscreen fighter with a certain rough edge about him.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  6. #546
    After listening to the latest POF, I decided to re-watch a couple of the Pang brothers' early works with THE EYE and BANGKOK DANGEROUS. Truly forgot how good THE EYE was and even after all these years it's still one of the better Asian horror/supernatural flicks. Some of those films that started the whole Asian horror boom are recognized as classics and this is one of them. Much better than that overrated SIXTH SENSE crap. The lead, Angelica Lee has gone on to do a bunch of movies but I don't think she ever topped her performance here & her performance was worthy of the numerous awards she won for this role.



    The next flick I caught was Lee Ji-won's debut feature, MISS BAEK. It played locally in my area but unfortunately my busy schedule precluded me from seeing this during its theatrical run. I subsequently read it got some buzz and hype, so I was doubly disappointed to have missed it. So I made it a point to see it this weekend on Amazon prime.

    It was a mixed bag. The positives were the excellent performance by Han Ji-min as the lead character who is emotionally stunted from a terrible childhood of abuse, neglect and abandonment & especially the young actress in her first film role, Kim Shi-a as the badly abused young girl who under Han Ji-min's care allows her catharsis and ultimate forgiveness. I got the same feeling watching Kim Shi-ah as I first did when I caught a young Kim Sae-ron in her early flicks like AHJUSSI and A BRAND NEW LIFE, she's got that "it" factor and is going to be something special especially considering how demanding this role was for her both mentally and physically at such a young age.

    The negative was the second half after such a nice build up. It was a let down and very predictable. I had hoped the director, Lee Ji-won would drop the heavy handed approach that was very effective in the opening for a more nuanced story in the second half but alas, it became more of the same and a police procedural at that. The last 15 minutes or so was absolutely ridiculous and turned a very tense emotional story into some sort of cheap action flick. Same for the sappy everything turns out all right 'ain't life grand' ending as well. Such a shame since for the first 60 minutes, I was engrossed in the story and felt I was watching something truly special only to have the rug pulled out from under me.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  7. #547
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    The Viper Brothers: Just Out of Jail (懲役太郎 まむしの兄弟) (Japan, 1971) [DVD] - 2/5
    Part 1 in a long running (8+1 films) action/comedy/melodrama series about a pair of short tempered, amoral, but not evil chinpira (Bunta Sugawara and Tamio Kawaji) thinking too big of themselves. Cinematically unspectacular, save for the fine chemistry between Kawaji and Sugawara, it is nevertheless interesting to place this film in the cinematic cannon. Made just prior to the jitsuroku era, before Sugawara established his image as the bad boy of gangster cinema, the direction Japanese cinema was heading to was already evident in how this film frequently portrays its "heroes" in unflattering light. Sugawara and Kawaji may have their comedy moments and emerge as heroes at the end, but only after bullying innocent people, making fools of themselves and even trying to rape a woman.



    The Viper Brothers: Cruel Gratitude (まむしの兄弟 お礼参り) (Japan, 1971) [DVD] - 2/5
    Part 2. More of the same with a bit less edge to the main characters who behave better this time. There are some energetic club scenes and Noboru Ando has a decent if familiar silent tough guy supporting role, though. The director is Tatsuo Honda, a long time assistant director who only ever directed two films. This was the first, followed by one pink film in 1975. He'd go on to work as writer and producer.

    The Viper Brothers: Prison Gang 13 (まむしの兄弟 懲役十三回) (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 1.5/5
    Part 3. This one is set in 1935, continuity be damned (the first two were post WWII). Sugawara and Kawaji nevertheless seemingly portray the same characters. Such disregard to continuity is actually beautiful! That's about as far as this film's excitement goes, unfortunately. Routine chinpira comedy lacks the grittiness of the first film. Instead it features Sugawara becoming a babysitter.

    The Viper Brothers: 18 Extortion Threats (まむしの兄弟 傷害恐喝十八犯) (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 2/5
    Part 4. Sugawara tries to overcome a traumatic experience of getting in bed blindfolded with a girl who turned out to be an old granny. Later he and Kawaji try to settle down in a neighbourhood harassed by businessman yakuza Bin Amatsu. Very little to remember here. Like many of the Abashiri Prison sequels, this series seemed to be running on the fumes of its star power - which the audience did not mind. Four plus one more films were to come.

    The Viper Brothers: Jail - Living for 4 1/2 Years (まむしの兄弟 刑務所暮し四年半) (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 3/5
    Part 5. Delightful start with Tatsuo Endo as a nice guy prison guard! How many times have you seen that? He does mention he's a former inmate for having killed 4 men but oh well. The rest of the film isn't half bad either. Kosaku Yamashita, well past his prime by 1973, manages some characterization that reminds of his 60s films and come with surprisingly moving results. Sugawara and Kawaji's chemistry is even more evident here than usual, the storyline is alright if melodramatic, and we got Kyosuke Machida (henchman) with cool beard and the always good Tsunehiko Watase (young hood) on board as well. One of the best films in the series.



    The Viper Brothers: Extortion Plot for 3,000,000 Yen (まむしの兄弟 恐喝三億円) (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 3/5
    Part 6. Another really funny opening with Sugawara just out of prison (every film in the series starts this way) and having to hitch hike a ride with a group of vacationing grannies. This was Norifumi Suzuki's entry in the series, and it shows. The humour is lowbrow, women fall in love with their rapists, and the film is uneven with several early scenes directed on auto pilot. There's also great action, good laughs, more boobs than in any other film in the series, and just when you least expect it Suzuki pulls out genuinely touching characterization with gangster's subordinate Hiroki Matsukata, a discriminated man of Chinese ethnicity, always reminded that he's no better than a dog. There's great sadness behind his superficially cool sunglassed look, skilfully conveyed by Matsukata.

    The Viper Brothers: Up on 30 Charges (まむしの兄弟 二人合わせて30犯) (Japan, 1974) [DVD] - 2/5
    Part 7. Kawachi finds his long lost mother, who is a rich lady of a respectable family. Comedy and melodrama ensue. Watchable but hardly exciting entry save for a few highlights such as the excessively violent ending and a wonderful only-in-Japan comedy rape when jailed Sugawara is determined to have sex with a female guard despite there being bars between them. Michi Azuma (the topless swordswoman from Babycart in Peril) plays a tomboy girl who wants to join the bros, overdoing it a bit while remaining clothed this time.

    The Viper Brothers and the Young General (まむしと青大将) (Japan, 1975) [DVD] – 1.5/5
    The last in the series. Sugawara runs into two mahjong cheaters (Ichiro Araki and Mako Midori + sidekick Takuzo Kawatani) whom he takes for friends in need as his naivety prevents him from seeing their true nature. Sadly this is waste of good cast, with cool-Araki, maniac-Kawatani and femme fatale Midori all in relatively restrained, boring roles. Kawachi doesn't appear until 35 min into the film. Sugawara's mother complex becomes a pain, too. The grit, the drama and the fun of parts 1, 5 and 6 respectively are nowhere to be found here. This is typical routine Nakajima with an occasional fun or exciting moment (the mahjong scenes fare the best). Note that there was one film made before this, Scoundrel vs. The Viper Brothers, which was a cross-over with the Tomisaburo Wakayama action comedy series and seems to be primarily considered part of that series.


  8. #548
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Mako Midori x 4

    Night Scandal (Akujo) (悪女) (Japan, 1964) [TV] – 2.5/5
    Toei had Yusuke Watanabe, Mako Midori and Mayumi Ogawa team up for this lesser, more conservative follow-up in the wake of the success of Two Bitches (1964). Ogawa is an innocent maid entering a decadent house with predatory playboy son Tatsuo Umemiya, lesbian party bitch Midori, and wife Hizuru Takachiho who is waiting for the old man to die and pass his fortunes to her. Pretty watchable exploitation-melodrama, but Ogawa is the weakest link. She's loud, hysterical and a bit annoying, which is at odds with the role she's playing. Umemiya fares the best, surprisingly. He spent two decades playing sexist playboy characters, usually seen thru a questionable macho filter. Here, however, he is a genuine bastard whose actions are not glorified.



    Female (Mesu) (牝) (Japan, 1964) [TV] - 3.5/5
    Amazingly convoluted but breathtakingly shot tale of a somewhat disturbed young woman (Mako Midori) engaging in a relationship with a married man at night and spying on his wife at day. The wife then seeks consolation from an attorney who just happens to be Midori's old man (who is unaware of his daughter's game)! And that's just the beginning of the storyline! Entertaining in spite of (or perhaps partly because of) its melodramatic convolution, it's also packed with beautiful melancholy with Midori wandering through the night and observing the city in lyrical images of exceptional beauty. Some of these scenes feel almost as if they were directed by Wong Kar Wai or Hirokazu Koreeda, and filmed by Ping Bin Lee (In the Mood for Love, Air Doll). Also, there is an amazing scene where Midori, who’s gotten herself on a TV show, "spies" on her lover and his wife making love via the television screen.



    Impudent Vixen (Abazure) (あばずれ) (Japan, 1966) [TV] - 3/5
    Entertaining Yusuke Watanabe / Mako Midori drama about a naive young girl who joins the circus and becomes a token for the male performers. For the most part, this feels old fashioned yet daring at the same time, a melodrama with bubbling-under sexuality and bizarre circus setting stylishly filmed in black and white almost like a film noir. The final reel is less impressive, with conservative and perhaps underlyingly misogynist end. Midori is good despite overacting, but it's Kyosuke Machida who shines as a lecherous trapeze artist lurking at young girls.



    Pretty Devil Yoko (非行少女ヨーコ) (Japan, 1966) [DVD] - 3/5
    Easily bored, but still innocent and naive countryside girl Mako Midori discovers partying in Tokyo is a ton of fun. Yakuza-to-be Ichiro Araki is an acquaintance who tries to rape her, and the typically bland but very-good-here Hayato Tani the first boyfriend. Director Yasuo Furuhata (his first picture) lets his camera roll in trendy clubs amongst partying youngsters in a way that could've been out of 60s England or a Nikkatsu film if it wasn't shadowed by dated 60s Toei conservatism. The resulting film is a bit confused, either a rebellious youth tale chained by moral concerns, or something conceived as a morality tale trying to break free from its chains. It's notable that this, like most Midori films, got slapped with an 18 rating despite featuring nothing graphic, as if out of fear of how it might influence the teenagers. Lavishly filmed with striking B&W compositions, the film retains its visual cool even during the more moralizing moments. For a superb 70s counterpart, see Tooru Murakawa's Delicate Skilful Fingers (1972), also with Araki.




    Recent films x 5

    Rapist (犯る男) (Japan, 2015) [Netflix] - 2.5/5
    Abused young woman falls in love with a homeless thief/murderer/rapist who lives by the river with his glorious special effect zombie monster dog. This is one movie that proved my initial assessment of it as garbage wrong. The first half is dull and the train groping parts downright ridiculous, but the further it gets, the odder it becomes till it ends up downright memorable twisted love story. But the best thing about the movie: the John Carpenter / Escape from New York rip-off score. The film, released theatrically as R18 and R15 versions in porn and arthouse cinemas respectively in 2014 and 2015, marked a sort of comeback for junk director Daisuke Yamanouchi (I once asked a friend who was working on a Daisuke Yamanouchi article which of his movies he'd recommend. His reply: none). The version reviewed here is the R15 one, running 70 minutes. The R18 version is supposed to have the same running time, more or less (it was released as a “Groper Train” film, btw). In 2017 Yamanouchi also released a 90 minute director’s cut, also with an R15 rating. And Amazon US is streaming a 61 minute version called Wanted: For Forced Entry, reportedly missing almost all sex.



    Ken and Kazu (ケンとカズ) (Japan, 2015) [Netflix] - 3.5/5
    Ice cold indie drama about two drug dealers making a barely sufficient living by dealing meth on suburban streets. The film opens with them mercilessly beating the shit out of punks who came to their territory. There's not one bit of Scorsese or Coppola's glory, not even Fukasaku's explosive chaos, but only bleak realism. Initially almost unwatchable for this reason, little by little the film gets under the viewer's skill thanks to terrific performances and fine characterization with the slightest bit of humanity inserted into Ken's character who is about to become a father. Debut director Hiroshi Shoji also helms the film with just enough visual cool to compensate for the draining nihilism. The last 25 minutes is less impressive with a more conventional confrontation. Nevertheless, the most noteworthy crime film from Japan in a while.



    One Cut of the Dead (カメラを止めるな!) (Japan, 2017) [Flight] – 4/5
    For my distrust in new Japanese indies, I skipped this one in theatres despite it becoming the Japanese cinematic phenomena of the year (it went from having no certain theatrical release to receiving limited arthouse release to finally ending up with massive mainstream distribution comparable to Marvel films as the word spread… it was made for $25 000 and went on to gross $25 million). My mistake! What begins as a moderately amusing zombie film (a frustrated film director summons real zombies to get genuine reactions from his cast and tries to film it all) shot in a single 36 minute take then turns into an absolutely genius and hilarious cinematic wonder. It is best not to reveal anything about the film’s final hour and let the audience discover it for themselves. Also don’t be put off by the film’s trailer – like the movie itself, it’s pulling the viewer’s leg.

    Alley Cat (アリーキャット) (Japan, 2017) [Netflix] - 3.5/5
    A failed boxer (Yôsuke Kubozuka) and a punk (rock star Kenji Furuya) try to help a woman blackmailed by obsessive ex with revenge porn. They are soon way over their heads as they run into her old acquaintances. Surprisingly good neo noir built on a socially aware blue collar indie drama. There are some very well acted and directed low key segments, as well as impressively realistic violence. In one scene the boxing hero's encounter with two gangster-like bodyguards leaves him lying on the ground nearly dead after receiving "only" a couple of hard punches and kicks. The storyline gets convoluted towards the end and struggles to find an entirely satisfying closing, though. Director Hideo Sakaki is best known as the main villain in Ryuhei Kitamura's Versus; he's also a competent director this movie proves.



    Shoplifters (万引き家族) (Japan, 2018) [Flight] – 4/5
    Perhaps Koreeda’s most accessible film with heartfelt, uniformly excellent performances by every central player. The characters, the direction and the performances are so good, so entertaining yet socially conscious that you don’t realize until halfway into the film that you don’t actually know anything about their backgrounds, which is something the film cleverly begins to examine from then on.

  9. #549
    I totally forgot about Koreeda's SHOPLIFTERS. Going to check it out tomorrow on Amazon Prime. For those without it, it's readily available on the usual sites and looks like it's a webrip of the HD version on Prime anyway. Going to check out Alan Mak's crime drama, INTEGRITY tonight starring Lau Ching-wan & Nick Cheung. Supposed to be the first in a planned trilogy. I'll do a review once I get back.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

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